Saturday, November 24, 2018

Kindness matters

I am an idiot. I was diagnosed with gout some 16-17 years ago (don't remember when, exactly, but I do remember the doctor was dreamy…) and even now I forget about some foods that I need to avoid, especially if I don’t have them often. Like turkey.

Yesterday my troublesome ankle was really good, and by bedtime my ankle was pretty much normal. Then in the night—it's always in the night, by the way—strong pain hit in the same ankle. It was so bad that this morning I couldn't even stand. I took some paracetamol and went back to sleep, and later I was able to hobble. I had to—I was late feeding the dogs, and needed to take my own medicine, too.

In my extensive experience, even pain that bad—where I need to break out and dust off my crutches—diminishes once I'm up and moving around. But I couldn't figure out why it went from zero to 100kph. I thought about what I'd had to eat the day before, and the only thing that was unusual was the turkey I’d had for lunch. So I Googled that and, yes, it's high in purines (which is what I need to avoid). Crap. If I hadn't been getting over an attack, it's unlikely the turkey would have affected me at all, but things being as they were, it was like pouring petrol on a fire.

I was meant to go with Nigel today for the unveiling of the headstone for his auntie, but I couldn't even stand. I also know that cemetery well (too well, sadly…), and the ground is very uneven. Combined with all the rain overnight, it meant the possibility of slipping and hurting myself even worse was high. So, I stayed home, feeling sorry for myself, of course, which was the only rational thing to do. Fortunately, I worked out what the trigger was before having the rest of the turkey for lunch today.

But this isn't actually about my personal challenges. Even though it was a helluva lot of pain, all this, too, will pass. It was annoying, nothing more (“annoying” especially because it was accidentally and innocently self-inflicted). But it reminded me that each of us at any given moment may face challenges that are, in the overall scheme of things, trivial. Ultimately, we'll move past them.

We always know of other people who are far worse off than we are at any given moment, and maybe sometimes that makes us not share what we’re going through. Sometimes that also makes people judgemental about people sharing their small challenges on social media, precisely because of the fact that there are people doing it worse. But as we all know, when we're in the middle of one of those bad times, it doesn't matter how small it is, it can be huge to us. I can confirm that when the searing pain shot up my entire leg this morning, my first thought was NOT that others have it worse.

This morning, I checked my Facebook newsfeed and saw that a real-life friend, who has had a run of bad luck lately, shared yet more bad luck that happened over the past few days. What my friend is facing isn’t life-threatening in any way whatsoever, and it’s all resolvable, but that doesn’t make it any less of a challenge. My friend’s point in sharing was that it’s possible to rise above it all, to not be consumed by it, and they’d found a way to do that. But they also helped lighten their burden just a little by sharing it, and the least we can do is acknowledge it—even with just a Facebook “reaction”. That lets the person know that we saw their challenge, and we acknowledge it, even if we don’t know what to say. Most of the time, that’s enough.

I think we need to be a kinder to each other. It doesn’t matter what we think of the fact someone shared something with us that we think is trivial, even if it objectively is, because it mattered to them, and that should be enough. We should consider that instead of “attention seeking”, the person sharing may simply be asking people to help them lighten the load just a little bit by acknowledging they’re in a rough patch.

We don’t need to be “right” all the time, and we certainly don’t need to “correct” other people. Our approval or agreement isn’t necessary when someone is facing a challenge, just a simple acknowledgement that we see they’re in pain, they’re a fellow human being, and we hope things will get better for them. That doesn’t diminish the horrendous things others go through at all—it merely lifts up our shared humanity. Because we all know that one day we’ll be in bad patch, too.

Kindness matters.

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